Monday, July 25, 2016

Indecent Exposure

Do you ever beat yourself up after a conversation, wishing you hadn’t said so much? My mouth embarrasses me far too often. It’s easy to fall into gossip and disparaging comments about others—especially when they’re headed for trouble, or when their choices hurt me personally.

Other than duct tape or wiring our mouths shut, how can we keep from blurting out more than is needed?

I have a friend I admire in this regard. She does well to share news without going into disparaging details. When she asks for prayer she doesn’t give a blow by blow, even when she’s angry and hurt. Her self-control is amazing. I asked her how and her answer continues to inspire me.

“Years ago,” she said, “God challenged another friend of mine to not expose another person’s shame, like Noah’s son Ham did.” I know the story from the book of Genesis but had never looked at it that way. My friend continued, “I’ve taken it as my personal goal as well. I try not expose the shame of other people, but rather, present them to God.”

In case you’re not familiar with the story, here’s what happened between Noah and his sons. After the flood waters drained away, Noah planted a vineyard and got drunk on the wine from his fields. His son, Ham, found him lying naked in his tent and ran to tell his brothers Shem and Japheth. He probably expected his brothers to laugh with him. Instead, they took a garment and backed into their father’s tent to cover him up. When Noah sobered he heard what had happened and was angry with Ham. In fact he cursed him, but Noah blessed his sons Shem and Japheth for honoring him, even in his inebriated state. (You can read this account in Gen. 9:18-28).

When we over share, we expose the nakedness of the one we're talking about. Why do we do this? Sometimes it’s to shock or amuse our friends, or because we don’t stop to think how embarrassed they will be when others know what they’ve done. Or, we do it to get back at them for the way they’ve treated us, or because we’re proud we haven’t committed that particular sin. It makes us feel better about ourselves.

Shem and Japheth didn’t dishonor their father by broadcasting his behavior, but they didn’t pretend it was okay either. This is a tough balance in our society today, when so many not only practice doing wrong, but want everyone to agree with their choices. It has become unpopular to state the truth that “dad is drunk and naked” and his behavior dishonors God.

If Noah did this today Ham would have posted pictures on Facebook, written a funny song about it. It would have shown up on reality TV or a sitcom called “Grapes Unwrapped.”And the movie version of his book Noah, the Nude Alcoholic: My Introduction to Voyeurism would soon come out in a theater near you. Too farfetched? I wonder.

Daily, believers in Christ Jesus are not allowed the same freedom of speech as nonbelievers. It’s not considered politically correct to call things right or wrong according to God’s holy law. We need to do it anyway. However, our freedom of speech does not give us license to slander or expose others unnecessarily—whether as prayer requests, private conversations, or on social media. What is God saying to you about this?

#prayerrequestgossip #embarrassingdetails #oversharing #sayingtoomuch


  1. I need to be reminded about this often, it seems, as I find it easy to slip into the habit of telling about someone else's failures. These stories are terribly damaging to reputations, and possibly untrue, as I seldom have the whole story.
    So why are we so cavalierly careless about harming the reputations of others? For me, I believe it's b/c it makes me look better ("I'd never do a foolish/crass thing like that."); and b/c of pride--I want to appear to be in the know, possessing inside info not available to others.
    When I'm in doubt as to whether I should discuss someone's failures with another person, I must ask: is this new person part of the problem (the failure), or he part of the solution to the problem?
    If he is neither, I have no business discussing the matter with him.

  2. Such excellent expression of an important idea. I've experienced the Holy Spirit's shushing. The idea that it's important for each person to tell their own story has been a helpful tool. The Noah connection is illuminating. Thank you.

  3. Great comments. Thank you for responding. This is a problem for so many of us.